Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first hatrick for Manchester United yesterday as we cruised to a 6-0 victory over Newcastle. He’s now got sixteen in the league and a total of twenty two goals in all competitions. Last season, when he collected a clean sweep of the domestic individual awards, he scored a total of twenty three goals. With four months of the season to go, it brings about frightening possibilities over what Ronaldo can and will achieve.
Sir Alex Ferguson has held an annual bet with Ronaldo over how many goals he can score since he joined us in 2003. This season however Ferguson said there would be no bet unless it was for fifty goals, something which Ronaldo did not take him up on. “We wondered at the start of last season whether he could match last season’s tally of 23. You had to say ‘why not?’ I expected him to score more this season because he works so hard. That’s why there were no bets this season, all bets are off with Ronaldo,” Ferguson joked. “[His first hat-trick] was always coming. He’s been close on a number of occasions but today he capped a really fine display with the hat-trick. We’re all delighted for him.”
Twenty two goals in twenty four games is a pretty unbelievable statistic and certainly proves that Ronaldo is not just a one season wonder. Whilst I can look to Cantona and Keane as hugely influential players over the past fifteen years, I struggle to think of a player who has been more effective for us than Ronaldo. Ruud van Nistelrooy scored a hell of a lot of goals, his best season coming in 2002-2003 where he scored 44 goals in 50 games, 25 of those in the league. However, he contributed little else to anyone else’s game. Our tactics were rather rigid when Ruud was in our team. They were essentially ‘give the ball to Ruud in the box’ and whilst simple, it was bloody effective for the most part, if not a little one dimensional.
In contrast, Ronaldo brings so much to our game, and does not rely on the service of others. He had more assists than anyone in the league last season, and whilst this number has decreased this season, there is no doubt that he contributes massively to our team. He is just as able at starting attacks as he is finishing them, charging down the wings or the centre of the park, passing the ball on to the full backs or other attackers to provide the goals. Ronaldo doesn’t need other players to set up his goals, he can make them for himself. He can create room for other players to score by taking two defenders out of the action with a simple run. He has the ability to score and provide for others week in week out and has become a massively important element in our team.
With all he is bringing to United at the moment, what would you like to see him improve on? Can Ronaldo get any better?